Sports teams and tourism destinations expect summer rebound
Minor League Baseball is back for 2021, after the coronavirus pandemic canceled the 2020 season. And there’s no question that this summer will look much different than a typical baseball season. But the Richmond Flying Squirrels are optimistic.
The team kicked off its season May 4. All fans who had vouchers or credits for 2020 tickets could redeem them for the 2021 season. Still, at the Diamond, the Squirrels’ home ballpark, capacity was limited to 3,448 fans as of May 15, but the team planned to return to its nearly 10,000 capacity by June 1.
“Those tickets are going to be pretty in demand,” says Trey Wilson, the Squirrels’ director of communications and broadcasting.
Various entertainment venues in Virginia, from ballparks to theme parks, expect to see a gradual increase in business during the 2021 summer season, compared with last summer, even amid uncertainty over whether some lingering COVID-19 restrictions might still be in place.
Visitation numbers at Historic Jamestowne were nearly back to pre-pandemic levels by May, even though the historic attraction was forced to close from Dec. 21 to March 1 due to regional coronavirus spikes, says Kelly Beckley, director of visitor services for Jamestown Rediscovery/Preservation Virginia, which along with the National Park Service, jointly administers Historic Jamestowne. It’s the site of the 1607 James Fort, the first permanent English settlement in the Americas and an archaeological treasure trove.
“I expect visitation numbers will continue to trend upwards as the weather grows increasingly warmer and larger numbers of people are vaccinated, making travel feel safer,” Beckley says.
There are no attendance limits in the outdoor areas of Jamestowne, where all daily tours and programs are offered. As of mid-May, people who have not been fully vaccinated were required to wear face masks inside buildings such as the archaeology museum. Also, in lieu of on-site field trips, Jamestowne has been offering virtual educational programs for schoolchildren.
“We are thrilled to be able to safely welcome visitors to Historic Jamestowne,” Beckley says. “We are continually assessing and making changes as needed to our operations in order to maintain a safe guest experience and working environment.”
A little more than 75 miles northwest from Jamestown in Hanover County’s Doswell area, the Kings Dominion amusement park reopened its gates May 22. The park did not open for its regular season in 2020, the only such closure in its 46-year-plus history. Kings Dominion’s Soak City water park opened May 29. All 2020 Kings Dominion season pass holders can extend their passes through 2021.
“We’re ready to welcome back our guests for a new season of safe family fun,” says Maggie Sellers, the park’s communications manager. “Our leadership team and associates have invested a lot of time and effort in developing stringent safety plans that incorporate guidelines and recommendations from medical experts, the CDC and health officials.”
Some Virginia communities expect to offer increased entertainment options this summer, welcoming travelers back. That’s happening in Southwest Virginia, where several national sports championships will be played this summer.
The USA Softball Gold National Championships for girls 16 years old and younger is scheduled for July in Salem. The competition draws teams from around the country, says Landon Howard, president of Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge, a destination marketing organization in Roanoke. “These people have already bought airline tickets from multiple states, and they’re flying in with family and friends and coaches. That is huge,” Howard says.
Also, Roanoke’s Carilion Clinic Ironman 70.3, a triathlon that was canceled last year, is slated for June 6 and it’s sold out.
After the challenges of the past year, holding the competition will help the region’s psyche, Howard says. “That’s a great psychological shot in the arm for our industry and for local residents.”